Monday, April 27, 2009

British Press Floods Family Courts, Newly Opened to Media

As noted last week, effective today, British media has new-found access to the nation's Family Courts, which had previously been closed to the press.

Times Online obliges with a series of reports from various Family Courts throughout the U.K., including coverage from Central London,  Cardiff,  Manchester, Bath , and this report on a child welfare matter from Haringey Family Court:

If judges and court staff were ready for what has been hailed as a revolution in the family courts, lawyers at Barnet’s Civil and Family Court Centre were slightly taken by surprise by the arrival of the media.

Two cases had to be adjourned while lawyers discussed whether to oppose the admittance of The Times, but both, in the end, agreed — realising that stringent reporting restrictions remain in place.

After decades of holding such hearings behind closed doors, no one quite knew what to do. John Tughan, counsel for Haringey — the local authority where Baby P died — at least had on him the guidance on admitting the media just issued by Britain’s most senior judge.

But he confessed to Judge Marcia Levy: “I don’t know what our position is . . . I simply don’t know. I was asking for ten minutes to take instructions from the team manager.”

The judge, who was preparing to give an hour-long judgment in a case involving two young children, said that neither their names, nor those of other children involved, could be mentioned; nor those of the parents, nor schools, places or anyone else connected with them that would enable them to be identified.

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